Among the New Humanities Initiatives at MIT are numerous projects in the digital humanities — a field of research, teaching, and creation that couples the disciplines of the humanities with computational approaches. Digital humanities projects often use such methodologies and techniques as web-based media, digital archiving, data mining, geo-spatial analysis, crowdsourcing, data visualization, and simulation. At MIT, digital humanities practioners use digital tools and big data to investigate research questions, while also presenting scholarship through, and within, new media forms. We recently talked with the creators of Annotation Studio, an innovative School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS) program that is empowering readers and writers — both in and beyond the classroom.
Time was, avid readers wrote notes in the margins of much-thumbed books, adding their own thoughts to the author’s and enriching the volume for future generations. John Adams, for example, is so well known for the witty repartee he exchanged with his own library that whole essays have been written about his annotations and comments.
The popularity of e-books could sound the death knell of such illuminating marginalia, but the Annotation Studio, a suite of easy-to-use digital tools developed by HyperStudio (the MIT SHASS lab for digital humanities), promises to improve upon traditional techniques for entering marginalia and side notes in books — enabling readers not only to annotate texts across media, but also to share comments with others and to enhance them with links, images, video, and audio.